Mattel Canada has launched a new marketing venture at the base of Toronto’s CN Tower called the “Mattel Digital Shop n’ Play.” Running through Dec. 8, the combination pop-up shop and interactive display enables kids and their parents to experience – and shop – Mattel products in a digital environment.
Developed by Brandfire Marketing Group, the “digital playground” invites kids to interact with iconic brands such as Barbie and Hot Wheels in a virtual manner. Kids can race through a twisting racetrack in a virtual Hot Wheels car, dress themselves up in Barbie’s Endless Closet or immerse themselves in a Thomas & Friends interactive story.
Parents, meanwhile, can navigate through Mattel toys via a giant gesture-controlled screen and complete a purchase onsite via secure mobile purchase with home delivery, or create a wish list that can be e-mailed to family and friends. Mattel has partnered with Toys R Us, Sears and Amazon to help with order fulfillment.
The program recognizes the growing role of screens not only in kids’ play, but also in how Canadians are shopping. Canadians spent an estimated $18.9 billion via e-commerce in 2012 according to recent statistics from Statistics Canada.
Donna Polimac, senior marketing manager for Mattel Canada, said that the program is an evolution of a concept that saw Mattel partner with Walmart to create a virtual store in downtown Toronto’s underground pedestrian walkways last year (that program was expanded to include Vancouver and Montreal this year).
“We believe there’s still a need for the actual act of going to a store and shopping, but it needs to evolve into something a little bit different,” she said. “What we tried to do is combine the elements of physical play and digital play and also the elements of physical and online shopping, and bring it all together in one space.”
Polimac said that integrating digital into physical play can help counter the so-called “KGOY” phenomenon (kids getting older younger), a major issue for toymakers since it drastically reduces the lifespan of their products.
“When you integrate digital into physical play, you actually create an opportunity to expand the age range for kids,” she said. “The idea of being able to try on Barbie’s clothes on a screen might keep a girl beyond the 6-7-8 age range.”
Barbie.com, for example, provides deeper engagement with the brand through webisodes and other interactive features, while Fisher-Price’s Little People brand has introduced the Little People Apptivity Barnyard, which enables users to slide in an iPad to make it a richer play experience.
“You can either fight it or you can work with it,” said Polimac. “We’re integrating all of that digital play into the physical play.”